Rules for Dialogue by the Founder of Marriage Encounter

  • We can all improve our marriage, because no one is perfect.
  • All problems can be solved if we want them to and are willing to work at it. Everything has a remedy.
  • The real solution to mutual problems is always found in sincerity and good will.
  • Mutual trust can develop and grow. One should never be sorry for having placed confidence in another.
  • Never use confidence as a weapon.
  • Man and woman are complementary. Their different points of view are normally both true, but incomplete.
  • They should be recognized as differences, not taken as marks of inferiority.
  • Be prepared to receive confidences from each other without anger or lack of understanding.
  • Listen attentively and lovingly to each other and be ready to confide in each other with humility.

…Gabrial Calvo

How One Couple Dialogues by Mail

Help_Pg_Env_183x128One of the best experiences of our married life was when Pat and I made a Marriage Encounter inside a Federal Corrections Institution. With the help of other couples who experienced Marriage Encounter in prison, members of the Marriage Encounter Prison Ministry have developed a method to help us dialogue by mail.

It’s important that we both write our letters when we’re feeling our best-alert, awake and as free as possible from distractions. I start by reading my letter from Pat. I keep Pat’s picture handy while I read.

Before writing I take some time to focus inward and become aware of what I’m feeling. I ask the Lord to be with me as I write, to keep me focused on Pat and to be open and honest in my sharing.

I start my letter by telling Pat about my day-what’s happened since my last letter. This not only brings Pat up on any news, it also reveals where I’m coming from as I continue my letter.

Then to help me really make it a love letter, I tell what I most appreciate about Pat right now, or something for which I am particularly grateful, or something about which I need to ask forgiveness.

Then I re-read Pat’s letter and respond to it. (We find we are usually working on three questions at once. To avoid confusion, we number our questions as well as our responses). I answer any questions Pat asked or explain anything from question #1. Then I try to understand Pat’s response to question #2. I might have a few questions to ask or clarify anything in it. These questions and rephrasing make up the main part of our “dialogue by mail”, so I give it serious thought.

Then I take the next question from the sheet (I’ll call that question #3) and I answer it with complete openness and honesty. I try to share my feelings as well as my thoughts or opinions. (See list of questions below)

When Pat and I came to the point where we answered all the questions on the handout we took turns forming new ones. This meant that every other day, in my letter, I wrote a new dialogue question. I knew it was important that I not miss this because it would bring our dialogue by mail to a halt. And I didn’t want that. Sometimes we repeated old questions. Our answers were usually quite different the second time.

The important thing is that our Marriage Encounter weekend could have just been some super neat thing that happened to us, but not all that lasting, had it not been for one thing-we continued the dialogue technique after our weekend.

We took the same dialogue technique we used all weekend and worked on it and kept it going by mail. We made a commitment to daily letters and dialogue by mail. This marked the beginning of an ever deepening relationship between Pat and me. Our dialogue by mail is now part of our lives. It influences our phone calls and helps to make our visits more enjoyable.

Another suggestion was made by a husband on the team during our Encounter. He includes a Scripture passage in each of his daily letters to his wife. Pat and I like this idea and we take turns suggesting Scripture passages for each other.

I was pretty excited about our relationship at the end of our Marriage Encounter, but I am delighted to tell you that what we have now is far better than what we had then, and daily letters and dialogue by mail is what we’ve used to make the difference.

WEDS Guide to Dialogue By Mail

We once were newly weds. We’ve been married many years now, but we’re still weds. We use the word WEDS to remember the steps in Dialogue by Mail.

Write your answer to the question in complete openness and honesty. Don’t write what you think your mate wants to hear.
Make “I” statements as much as possible: “I like…”, “I dream of…”, “I am doing…”, ‘I’m frustrated over…”, “I feel lonely when…”.
Express feelings freely; don’t try to defend them. (Remember; feelings are neither right nor wrong.) Sometimes a feeling covers over another feeling: tension may cover loneliness, indifference may cover helplessness or woundedness, cheerfulness may cover fears or fatigue.
In short, reflect on the chosen question and express what’s in your heart as clearly and honestly as possible in a non­judgmental way.

Exchange your letters by mail. When you get your spouse’s letter, read it twice–once for the head, once for the heart. Reach out to “take in” each other’s feelings and sincerely try to understand. For a time, put yourself in each other’s “shoes”.

Dialogue by mail. Check out your impressions. You can do this by rewriting what your spouse has said in your own words and sending it to him/her to be sure you understand exactly what meaning was intended. If you have questions or are confused, write back and, in a gentle way, ask for a clearer explanation.

Select the next question. Many questions are listed below. Or, take turns creating questions that help you to understand each other and to build a future together.

Questions for Dialogue by Mail

HDIF = How Do I Feel
WAMF = What Are My Feelings

Monday HDIF (How did I feel) about trying to dialogue by mail?
Tuesday HDIF when I write a letter to you?
Wednesday Describe a funny thing that happened to me recently.
Thursday HDIF when I pray for you?
Friday What thought of you makes me smile?
Saturday HDIF when I get a letter from you?
Sunday WAMF when I think of God looking over us?

More Questions for Dialogue by Mail

  1. What little thing reminds me of you?
  2. HDIF when you tell me you need me?
  3. Am I growing intellectually? In what ways? HDIF about that?
  4. What would I like to change about myself?
  5. How do I think you can best help me to be myself?
  6. WAMF about church?
  7. A meal I long for is…
  8. HDIF when I do something for someone else?
  9. When do I miss you the most?
  10. Are we growing in unity? In what ways?
  11. If we had a day together I would like to… ­
  12. What feeling did I have today to share?
  13. How can I tell that God loves us?
  14. What feelings do I have about our relationship?
  15. HDIF when I know I have hurt you?
  16. When do I know you are proud of me?
  17. How can I tell that you had a bad day? WAMF at that time?
  18. When the going gets rough, I feel better if I…
  19. The thing I miss most about you is…
  20. What did I learn about myself since Dialogue by Mail? HDIF about that?
  21. What do your letters mean to me?
  22. What thought of you makes me smile?
  23. I say “Yes” to our marriage when I …
  24. HDIF when I see you after a long separation?
  25. HDIF about the way our love has changed over the past year?
  26. HDIF when I reread your letters?
  27. HDIF about (your) coming home?
  28. Something you have done to make me happy is …
  29. How do I think we can now show our love for each other?
  30. HDIF about the way you begin your letters to me?